Tom Swift And His Motor-Boat by Victor Appleton
Chapter XII. Suspicious Characters
Under the skill of the physicians at the lake sanitarium Mr. Duncan's wound was quickly attended to and the bleeding, which Tom had partly checked, was completely stopped. Some medicines having been administered, the hunter regained a little of his strength, and, about an hour after be had been brought to the resort, he was able to see Tom, who, at his request, was admitted to his room. The young inventor found Mr. Duncan propped up in bed, with his injured arm bandaged.
"Is the injury a bad one?" asked Tom, entering softly.
"Not as bad as I feared," replied the hunter, while a trained nurse placed a chair for the lad at the bedside. "If it had not been for you, though, I'm afraid to think of what might have happened."
"I am glad I chanced to be going past when you called," replied the lad.
"Well, you can imagine how thankful I am," resumed Mr. Duncan. "I'll thank you more properly at another time. I hope I didn't delay you on your trip."
"It's not of much consequence," responded the youth. "I was only going to see that everything was all right at our house," and he explained about his father being at the hotel and mentioned his worriment. "I will go on now unless I can do something more for you," resumed Tom. "I will probably stay at our house all night to-night instead of trying to get back to Sandport."
"I'd like to send word to my wife about what has happened," said the hunter. "If it would not be too much out of your way, I'd appreciate it if you could stop at my home in Waterford and tell her, so she will not be alarmed at my absence."
"I'll do it," replied our hero. "There is no special need of my hurrying. I have brought your gun and compass up from the boat. They are down in the office."
"Will you do me a favor?" asked Mr. Duncan quickly.
"Then please accept that gun and compass with my compliments. They are both of excellent make, and I don't think I shall use that gun this season. My wife would be superstitious about it. As for the compass, you'll need one in this fog, and I can recommend mine as being accurate."
"Oh, I couldn't think of taking them," expostulated Tom, but his eyes sparkled in anticipation, for he had been wishing for a gun such as Mr. Duncan owned. He also needed a compass.
"If you don't take them I shall feel very much offended," the hunter said, "and the nurse here will tell you that sick persons ought to be humored. Hadn't they?" and he appealed to the pretty young woman, who was smiling at Tom.
"That's perfectly true," she said, showing her white, even teeth. "I think, Mr. Swift, I shall have to order you to take them."
"All right," agreed Tom, "only it's too much for what I did."
"It isn't half enough," remarked Mr. Duncan solemnly. "Just explain matters to my wife, if you will, and tell her the doctor says I can be out in about a week. But I'm not going hunting or practicing shots again."
A little later Tom, with the compass before him to guide him on his course through the fog, was speeding his boat toward Waterford. Now and then he glanced at the fine shotgun which he had so unexpectedly acquired.
"This will come in dandy this fall!" he exclaimed. "I'll go hunting quail and partridge as well as wild ducks. This compass is just what I need, too."
Mrs. Duncan was at first very much alarmed when Tom started to tell her of the accident, but she soon calmed down as the lad went more into details and stated how comparatively out of danger her husband now was. The hunter's wife insisted that Tom remain to dinner, and as he had made up his mind he would have to devote two days instead of one to the trip to his house, he consented.
The fog lifted that afternoon, and Tom, rejoicing in the sunlight, which drove away the storm clouds, speeded up the Arrow until she was skimming over the lake like a shaft from a bow.
"This is something like," he exclaimed. "I'll soon be at home, find everything all right and telephone to dad. Then I'll sleep in my own room and start back in the morning."
When Tom was within a few miles of his own boathouse he heard behind him the "put-put" of a motor craft. Turning, he saw the Red Streak fairly flying along at some distance from him.
"Andy certainly is getting the speed out of her now," he remarked. "He'd beat me if we were racing, but the trouble with his boat and engine is that he can't always depend on it. I guess he doesn't understand how to run it. I wonder if he'll offer to race now?"
But the red-haired owner of the auto boat evidently did not intend to offer Tom a race. The Red Streak went on down the lake, passing the Arrow about half a mile away. Then the young inventor saw that Andy had two other lads in the boat with him.
"Sam Snedecker and Pete Bailey, I guess," he murmured. "Well, they're a trio pretty much alike. The farther off they are the better I like it."
Tom once more gave his attention to his own boat. He was going at a fair speed, but not the limit, and he counted on reaching home in about a half hour. Suddenly, when he was just congratulating himself on the smooth-running qualities of his motor, which had not missed an explosion, the machinery stopped.
"Hello!" exclaimed the young inventor in some alarm. "What's up now?"
He quickly shut off the gasoline and went back to the motor. Now there are so many things that may happen to a gasoline engine that it would be difficult to name them all offhand, and Tom, who had not had very much experience, was at a loss to find what had stopped his machinery. He tried the spark and found that by touching the wire to the top of the cylinder, when the proper connection was, made, that he had a hot, "fat one." The compression seemed all right and the supply pipe from the gasoline tank was in perfect order. Still the motor would not go. No explosion resulted when he turned the fly-wheel over, not even when he primed the cylinder by putting a little gasoline in through the cocks on the cylinder heads.
"That's funny," he remarked to himself as he rested from his labors and contemplated the "dead" motor. "First time it has gone back on me." The boat was drifting down the lake, and, at the sound of another motor craft approaching, Tom looked up. He saw the Red Streak, containing Andy Foger and his cronies. They had observed the young inventor's plight.
"Want a tow?" sneered Andy.
"What'll you take for your second-hand boat that won't run?" asked Pete Bailey.
"Better get out of the way or you might be run down," added Sam Snedecker.
Tom was too angry and chagrined to reply, and the Red Streak swept on.
"I'll make her go, if it takes all night!" declared Tom energetically. Once more he tried to start the motor. It coughed and sighed, as if in protest, but would not explode. Then Tom cried: "The spark plug! That's where the trouble is, I'll wager. Why didn't I think of it before?"
It was the work of but a minute to unscrew the spark plugs from the tops of the cylinders. He found that both had such accumulations of carbon on them that no spark could ever have reached the mixture of gasoline and air.
"I'll put new ones in," he decided, for he carried a few spare plugs for emergencies. Inside of five minutes, with the new plugs in place, the motor was running better than before.
"Now for home!" cried Tom, "and if I meet Andy Foger I'll race him this time."
But the Red Streak was not in sight, and, a little later, Tom had run the Arrow into the boathouse, locked the door and was on his way up to the mansion.
"I suppose Mrs. Baggert and Garret will be surprised to see me," he remarked. "Maybe they'll think we don't trust them, by coming back in this fashion to see that everything is safe. But then, I suppose, dad is naturally nervous about some of his valuable machinery and inventions. I think I'll find everything all right, though."
As Tom went up the main path and swung off to a side one, which was a short cut to the house, he saw in the dusk, for it was now early evening, a movement in the bushes that lined the walk.
"Hello, Garret!" exclaimed the lad, taking it for granted it was the engineer employed by Mr. Swift.
There was no reply, and Tom, with a sudden suspicion, sprang toward the bushes. The shrubbery was more violently agitated and, as the lad reached the screen of foliage, he saw a man spring up from the ground and take to his heels.
"Here! Who are you? What do you want?" yelled Tom.
Hardly had he spoken when from behind a big apple tree another man sprung. It was light enough so that the lad could see his face, and a glimpse of it caused him to cry out:
"Happy Harry, the tramp!"
Before he could call again the two men had disappeared.